NASCAR'S FIRST WINNER DIES
Jim Roper, winner of NASCAR's first "strictly stock" car race in 1949, died Friday. He was 83. Roper, a native of Halstead, drove his Lincoln off the showroom floor in Great Bend to North Carolina and on to victory in the June 19, 1949, race at Charlotte Speedway. Friends said Roper had been ill with cancer in recent years and suffered from heart and liver failure. He died at a retirement home in Newton. Roper will forever be linked to that first NASCAR race and a quirky finish that gave him the victory in front of 23,000 people.
The story goes that Jim Roper read about the Charlotte race by reading a note about it in Zack Moseley's 'Smilin' Jack' comic strip in his local paper. It tripped Roper's trigger and he went down to the dealer with money in hand and off he went to Charlotte. The track was not the track race fans now know as Lowes. It was a pile of dirt grandstand with cement seats out on Wilkinson Blvd. The track length was 3/4th miles clay surface.
A footnote to the story is that Roper was not the physical winner. Glenn Dunaway crossed the line first in a 1947 Ford 2Door Sedan. He was subsequently disqualified because he had welded a perch on the buggy spring rear suspension to prevent the spring from going past center. NASCAR, or whatever it was called at the time, disqualified Dunaway and awarded the win to Roper.
Rest in Peace Jim Roper. You will not be forgotten.
Len Ashburn, special to motorsport.com